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1Q99 Marketing Results Show Strong Volume Growth

1Q99 Marketing Results Show Strong Volume Growth

Judging from preliminary gas marketer ranking results for the first quarter, the big continue to get even bigger and the smaller gas marketers are increasing their volumes as well. So far in NGI's marketer survey, 13 of the top-20 increased their gas sales volumes by more than 1 Bcf/d from the same period in 1998. Only four of the top-20 did less business in 1Q99 than 1Q98.

Despite the increased volumes, only small moves were seen in the top slots. By marketing nearly 12.5 Bcf/d, Enron held onto the top spot once again, but PG&E Energy Trading is gaining fast. PG&E jumped to No. 2 in the first quarter from No. 4 in 4Q98 on the list, riding the strength of a 4.37 Bcf/d increase in volumes.

PG&E Energy Trading spokeswoman Debbie Witmer attributed her company's more than 54% growth in gas volume marketed mainly to changes in the company's portfolio. PG&E Energy Trading is integrating the fuel supply of non-regulated U.S. Generating as well as PG&E's Energy Services business. "Some of that increase is due to the continued integration of the portfolio, which is now being handled by Energy Trading."

Witmer said the company is not focused just on volume. "Over time, say a two or three year period, we do expect to see healthy growth, but these swings up and down are kind of the result of long-term deals dropping out and new deals coming in. I'd say our focus is on profitability, which can come with volumes, but not always. I guess the real key thing is over the longer term, two- to three-year period, we do expect to see healthy, steady growth."

Although Aquila Energy saw an almost 2 Bcf/d rise in gas sales, it fell to fourth place. Duke and Coral Energy held their places from their 4Q98 ranking at third and fifth place, respectively. Each company in the top-five averaged at least 1.5 Bcf/d over their full year 1998 results.

Engage Energy continued to report dwindling results. After posting a 7% gain in volumes from July to September of 1998, the company has posted decreased volumes in both the fourth quarter of 1998 and first quarter of 1999. With the latest drop of over 14%, Engage fell to ninth place.

The company biting at Engage's heels in 10th place, Columbia Energy, has been rising by leaps and bounds since 3Q98. The first quarter of 1999 marked the second straight 50% rise in gas sales volumes for the Virginia-based integrated pipeline company.

Another company achieving a 50% increase was Sempra Energy. The rise placed the San Diego-based marketer in 12th place, up two spots from its 4Q98 ranking. The volume increase was, in part, a result of Sempra's purchase of CNG's energy marketing portfolio last year. This is the third straight quarter Sempra has posted a volume increase of 50%.

Sonat Marketing appears to be headed in the opposite direction of Sempra. It posted a decrease in volumes marketed for the third straight quarter. The 1Q99 drop was the most significant, however, as the volumes fell 20% from 1Q98 levels. One result of the poor performance was Atlanta Gas Light's (AGL) announced intention to sell its 35% interest in Sonat Marketing. Due to disappointing results from the venture, including a $3.5 million non-recurring accounting charge last quarter, AGL exercised its option to sell its interest back to Sonat for no less than the original investment plus interest.

NGI's complete gas and power marketer rankings will be available Monday.

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